By Les Blough in Venezuela. Axis of Logic
|An exuberant president after winning an all-important victory for the people of Ecuador!
|President Correa claims another victory
||Correa campaigning for the referendum in Guayaquil
A huge congratulations to President Rafael Correa and all Ecuadoreans from Axis of Logic for their resounding victory in yesterday's referendum. President Correa won the referendum on all ten questions between 51 and 57%, depending on the specific measure on which the people voted.
This referendum victory should be seen in the context of (and one of the fruits of) their new constitution passed on September 28, 2008. The new constitution acknowledges indigenous rights, peoples' land rights and livelihoods and the rights of nature. Before examining the referendum passed yesterday, let us take a look at some of the specific provisions enshrined in their 2008 constitution which establishes the following requirements:
- Maintain, develop and strengthen their [indigenous] spiritual, cultural, linguistic, social, political and economic identity and traditions.
- Maintaining possession of ancestral lands and to obtain their community free allotment, according to the law.
- Preserve the ownership of communal lands, which are inalienable, indivisible and indefeasible, unless declared as public utility by power of the State. These lands are also exempt from paying property taxes.
- Be consulted on plans related to programs of exploration and exploitation of non-renewable resources found on their lands and those that may have detrimental environmental and/or cultural affects; to have a share in the benefits that these projects will bring as soon as possible and to receive compensation for the socio-environmental damage they cause*.
- Preserve and promote their management of biodiversity and their natural environment.
- Not to be displaced, as peoples from their lands.
- Maintain, develop and manage their cultural and historical heritage.
In addition to these indigenous rights, the Rights and Resource Initiative described the rights of nature in Ecuador's constitution:
"Along with indigenous rights, the Constitution also recognizes the rights of nature. This revolutionary approach to environmental protection is seen as both experimental and radical. In a press release from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, the constitutional articles concerning the rights of nature are shared. Under the new Constitution, "nature, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution." Under the new measures, the State is also tasked with motivating 'natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature.' Essentially, citizens would be able to privately enforce nature rights."
Yesterday, Ecuadoreans responded to 10 questions on the ballot which are provided below along with Axis of Logic commentary on each:
1. Do you agree with amending Article 77, number 9 of the Constitution, incorporating a clause to prevent the expiration of preventive detentions when this expiration has been caused by the person on trial, and to punish unreasonable obstacles to justice placed by judges, prosecutors, experts or auxiliary judicial officials?
Axis of Logic: This measure can prevent criminals from being released prematurely as has often happened in the past.
2. Do you agree that alternatives to deprivation of liberty [imprisonment] should apply?
Axis of Logic: This measure can regulate judges’ practice of giving condemned criminals alternative penalties like house arrest or probation.
3. Do you agree with prohibiting private financial-system institutions, as well as private national media companies, their directors and principal shareholders, from owning or holding shares outside the financial or communication sectors, respectively?
Axis of Logic: This is one of the sweeter measures approved by the people of Ecuador. It prevents the formation of large private media/entertainment conglomerates like Time-Warner or News Corporation in the United States. It's been attacked of course as an infringement of freedom of expression as though big media should be able to do what they want without regard to the inherent culture, values of family and children in Ecuador. President Chávez has been attacked in similar fashion for regulating the media to protect the Venezuelan people.
4. Do you agree with substituting the current Judiciary Council with a Transitional Judiciary Council, comprised of three members, one designated by the executive branch, one by the legislative branch and one by the transparency and social-control branch, so that within the time limit of 18 months, it may exercise the powers of the Judicial Council and restructure the judiciary?
Axis of Logic: This measure would hasten judicial reforms called for by the country’s new constitution. It will increase checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government, denying the judiciary of unbridled power.
5. Do you agree with modifying the composition of the Judiciary Council, amending the Constitution and reforming the Organic Code of the judicial branch?
Axis of Logic: The changes in this measure are explained in an annex (not translated from Spanish here). Ecuadoreans approval has allowed the government to streamline the judicial processes. One of its advantages is that judges and other officials will no longer be chosen by political cronies in an "independent commission" but rather by a commission that includes several branches of government. Remember that Supreme Court Justices in the United States are chosen by the president alone.
6. Do you agree that the National Assembly, without delay, within the period specified in the Organic Law of the legislative branch, after the publication of this plebiscite’s results, make “unjustified private enrichment” a crime within the penal code?
Axis of Logic: This measure gives the government new tools to fight corruption, big corporations and wealthy members of society (and members of the former oligarchy) from regaining control of the government by means of bribery and other capitalist schemes.
7. Do you agree that businesses dedicated to gambling, such as casinos and gaming rooms, should be prohibited in the country?
Axis of Logic: This measure of the referendum even had the support of the anti-government factions.
8. Do you agree that spectacles that end with the killing of an animal [such as bullfights] should be banned in your county?
Axis of Logic: Who can disagree with this humane decision to ban the brutality of the bullfights which further corrupted humanitarian values in Ecuador? Formerly, the only real beneficaries of bullfights were those who profited from them.
9. Do you agree that the National Assembly, without delay, within the period specified in the Organic Law of the legislative branch, should issue a Communications Law creating a Regulation Council, which would regulate the diffusion of content on television, on the radio and in the written press that contain violent, sexually explicit or discriminatory messages, and that would establish criteria to hold communicators or broadcasters responsible?
Axis of Logic: Our comment on this measure of the referendum is more extensive. Predictably, the opposition inside Ecuador and especially big media in the U.S. and Europe attack this measure as a violation of Free Speech, comparing it to the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Digital Media (LSR). But Correa and his administration understand the media war very well. First ask the question: What country does not regulate the media? In Venezuela it is CONATEL and in the United States it is the FCC that regulates the media on some of the same issues, violence, sexual pornography, racism, etc. Corporate media attacks (consolidation of power, free speech, etc) continue against President Chávez and the Venezuelan government for the LSR which is:
"... intended to uphold freedom of expression and information, support parents by limiting daytime media content deemed inappropriate for children and adolescents, encourage the broadcast of more educational programming on TV and radio, guarantee citizen participation in the communications sector, and promote growth within the country’s communications industry, among others."
The LSR has in Venezuela does not in fact restrict freedom of expression, quite the contrary. The Venezuelan, Bolivian and Ecuadoran media laws also makes it a crime for media to incite an overthrow of the government as RCTV and others did in Venezuela in the 2002 attempt. Eva Golinger wrote about both issues in January of this year:
"In Venezuela, more than 80% of television, radio and print media remain in the hands of private interests critical of the government. So, despite what some international press claim, there is no censorship or violation of free expression in Venezuela. Calls to overthrow the government or to incite the armed forces to rebel against the state, which would clearly be prohibited in most nations, are broadcast on opposition-controlled television channels with public concessions (open signals, not cable). Just last month, the head of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, gave a press conference broadcast live on television and radio stations, during which he called the armed forces "traitors" who would "pay the price" if they didn't disobey government orders and "obey" the dictates of business operators.
The corporate media also attacked Bolivia's media law on the same grounds. Regarding Bolivia's new media law, Joel Richards wrote for NACLA in January, 2010
The media in Bolivia is largely controlled by a small group of corporations, in particular the Spanish Grupo Prisa, Grupo Líder, and the vociferously anti-MAS Universal de Televisión (UNITEL). The UNITEL network is owned by the Montesinos family, which participated in the Sánchez de Lozada government that was ousted by a popular uprising in 2003. Protected by legislation over printed press that dates back to the 1920s, and legislation pushed through in the neoliberal 1990s, private media sets the conservative opposition's agenda.
I wouldn't even talk about 'coverage' of these elections," MAS congressman Gustavo Torrico tells NACLA while waiting for Morales to appear in Plaza Murillo on the day of the elections. "I would talk about the partisanship of the Bolivian media," he says. "It has reached such a level that they should name themselves mouthpieces for the opposition, and stop hiding behind the smokescreen of 'free press,'" he says.
The Venezuelan government and the three pre-eminent English language media defenders of Venezuelan democracy, Correo del Orinoco, Venezuelan Analysis and Axis of Logic, have responded vigorously to these charges. The right and responsibility of the Ecuadoran government's media regulation should be equally defended with force.
10. Do you agree that the National Assembly, without delay, within the period specified in the Organic Law of the legislative branch, should after the publication of this plebiscite’s results, should make it a criminal offense not to include employees in the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute?
Axis of Logic: There are about a million workers in Ecuador who have been working without benefits outside the social security system. The population of Ecuador is about 14 million. The new inclusion of these workers for social security benefits would include those who work as maids, childcare providers and many others. This is socialism at work!
IKN, writing about the effects of this victory on the stock market, reported:
"Correa calls for unity, peace, love, 'not the end but the beginning' and every other cliché you've come to expect from a politico that whips his opposition's ass in fine style. What he actually said was, "I call on all Ecuadoreans of good will and faith to put their shoulders and hearts together and build together the Ecuador that we have been fighting and hoping for and which starting today is approaching reality."
Jaime Nebot (the face of the opposition and Guayaquil's mayor) says he's willing to sit down with Correa. Well, after getting his ass whipped soooo badly what else could he say?
Simon Romero writes fruitfly level analysis copy on his laptop in a bar in Caracas (and don't deny it, Simon...you were spotted)."
In a pre-referendum article by the British Guardian, Grace Livingstone ironically mixed her accusations of "power grab' by the Ecuadoran president (a typical charge by the corporate media when their losing a battle in Latin America), with this description of President Correa:
"Ecuador is part of the leftwing block of countries in Latin America, which also includes Venezuela and Bolivia. Like those countries, Ecuador's government has sought to impose tougher conditions on foreign companies extracting oil and funnel the money into social projects. Poverty and unemployment have both fallen under Correa. A left-leaning nationalist, he ordered the United States to remove its military base from Ecuador, joking that the Pentagon could remain only if Ecuador were allowed a military base in New York (sic - it was Miami). He also threatened to default on foreign debt, but in a canny move, the president, an economist trained in Belgium and the US, bought back the bonds when the price fell."
Supporters of the new constitution celebrate in Quito, capital of Ecuador, Sept. 28, 2008. Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has won Sunday's referendum on his country's new constitution with a 66.4 percent "yes" vote, exit polls reveal. (Xinhua Photo)
We conclude our report on the people's victory yesterday with the ratification of Ecuador's referendum with an announcement by the BBC:
Ecuador President Rafael Correa wins referendum
May 8, 2011
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has won a referendum on a wide range of reforms, according to the country's National Election Council.
|President Correa celebrated the result of the exit polls as a personal victory
An early count showed voters had backed him on all 10 referendum questions, which ranged from banning bullfighting to judicial and media reform.
Opposition politicians say the reforms are an attempt by President Correa to increase his power.
Analysts say that the results will be a boost to Mr Correa.
The national election council said its first "quick" sample count showed the president was ahead on all 10 questions by a range of 51-57% in what has been seen as essentially a vote of confidence on the 48-year-old leader who has governed since 2007.
President Correa declared victory after two separate polls indicated a large margin of voters had voted in favour of the reforms.
"Today, we made an important step toward peace, democracy and a new motherland," he said after the first results came out.
"The truth and the Ecuadorean people have been the winners in this."
Opposition politicians had argued that some of the more controversial proposals, such as giving the president more of a say over judicial appointments, constituted a power grab.
While casting his vote, President Correa dismissed the opposition's concerns.
"They've been saying it's totalitarian... [a word] used for a state in which things are done by force. We're doing this democratically," he said.
Analysts say that an overwhelming yes vote would improve President Correa's standing ahead of presidential elections in 2013, for which he could stand for a third time.